To Sit Fireside

Folks of the desert region knew Pacey to be a ornery cuss; truth was he didn’t have much use for people. He only came to any ‘over-growed spot,’ to fetch supplies or ‘wet his pipes.’

On this cold, sleet-filled night, Pacey came to town to do both. He knew the saloon would be full of greenhorns, so getting a stake by the fireside meant he’d have to skun the lot.

“Boy,” he called to the 10-year-old, “Take my Sally to the stable, give’er some grub and a shot of whiskey.”

The child, reins in hand disappeared around the corner into the darkness, the old mule following behind. Pacey then entered the hall for a much-needed shot of whiskey and a beer himself.

What had been a raucous room, died to a mild din as Pacey strode up, demanding, “A whiskey and a beer, pronto!”

The man behind the wooden counter topped off a stoneware mug, served room temperature, and a smaller glass of golden fluid. Pacey downed the liquor, followed swiftly by the other.

“Mister,” came a child’s voice from behind Pacey. Turning, he looked down at the boy he’d charged with caring for his mule.

Pacey didn’t look the least surprised as the child stated, “Yer mule won’t take the whiskey like you wanted.”

The entire room fell silent.

“Nonsense,” Pacey protested. “You ain’t tried hard enough is all.”

The man behind the counter, obliged to defend the boy, his son, “You old fool – mules won’t drink whiskey!”

“This’en does!” Pacey shouted, “Try again!”

He waved the boy off in the direction he had come. As the child left, curiosity overcame the initiate-crowd and they followed the boy outside into the misery, each wanting to see such an entertaining spectacle as a mule drinking whiskey.

“Set me up another round, and make it two beers this time,” Pacey directed the boy’s father.

Five minutes later, the group of men following the boy returned, “Still won’t take the whiskey,” the child explained.

“Fine! Then I’ll drink the damned thing!” the old loner stated gruffly. By this time, Pacey had staked out a spot where he could warm his ol’ bones fireside.

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